Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest Diary, August 1, 2008

This day ended in triumph. The pleasure of music making triumphed over the music of pain we have been writing about these past few days. The prime music maker is violinist/fiddler Gilles Apap—one of those people from whom music flows spontaneously, unpredictably, joyfully, without self-consciousness or boundaries. He appears totally confident and totally into having fun stirring things up with his fiddle. Whether it’s klezmer or concerto, jigs, reels, kitchen music, or Bartok Apap makes music like a trickster makes mischief. With a wink and a grin, sounds that you never heard before morph into great classics. He had his ‘band’ (a dozen players of a chamber orchestra) whistling a few bars of a theme introducing a rousing and powerful version of ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s “Seasons.”

Apap also played an improvised program with accordianiste Myriam Lafarge: tunes from Ireland, Brittany, Québec and Bulgaria, to name a few as indication of the range of their learning. Lafarge is also a virtuoso, albeit a shy one, but her ability to cover Apap’s moves never flagged for a moment. He, in his grand and generous fashion, kept putting her in the spotlight, which also endeared him enormously to the audience. This was an evening exhilarating pleasure.

Earlier in the day, Barry Shiffmann joined some of his former colleagues—Steven Sitarski, Desmond Hoebig, and Andrew Tunis, for a performance of Brahms’ “Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60.” Despite the steamy venue and the hard pews, the music was moving and much appreciated. Brahms composed this at a time in his life when he was very stressed: Robert Schumann, his mentor was drifting into the insanity that would hospitalize him for the final few years of his life. Brahms was ‘dying’ of his unconsummated love for Clara Schumann. This quartet was an outlet for and perhaps a resolution of his torment. He put the finished work away for twenty years and rewrote it extensively before joining in the premiere in 1875.

The work is popularly subtitled “Werther” in reference to Goethe’s character who kills himself for love. The subtitle is apt in describing the sigh of pain that opens the first movement who’s minor key moan is not really relieve by modulations to C major in this and the following movement. However, the lovely opening cello solo of the third movement is considered the expression of a ‘letting go’ of Clara and expands through a series of animated cantabile melodies towards a finale full of charm and warmth and a certain loftiness of tone.

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